The City Council approved a new amendment to the chronic nuisance premises ordinance in their January meeting, which now allows Madison residents dealing with problematic properties to find quicker resolution for their grievances.
The chronic nuisance ordinance was originally put in place to allow the city to take action against landlords and homeowners whose properties generated numerous calls for nuisance activities, according to Ald. Bridget Maniaci, District 2.
Nuisance activity includes violation of the minimum housing code, damage to property, disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace, Maniaci explained. The ordinance helps the city hold property owners accountable for resolving nuisance activity on the premises, she said.
“[The ordinance] was adopted a couple of years ago, but there were a couple things that were not working for it,” Maniaci said.
The ordinance stipulated a property required five separate notices from five separate inspections and at least one had to result in a ticket or some other form of prosecution in order for the property to be declared a chronic nuisance premise, according to Building Inspection Division Director George Hank.
It set a pretty high bar, Hank said. If there is a property owner who causes a lot of problems and is prosecuted for it, the number of notices should be lowered to three or four, he said.
Maniaci explained the ordinance was creating a lot of lag time between reports of nuisance activity and action taken to address the problem. It involved a lot of paperwork and a lot of bureaucracy, she said.
The amendment added violations of the fire prevention code to the list of prohibited nuisance activities, increasing the probability of getting a notice, according to Maniaci. It also amended the building referral process to bring properties to the attention of the city faster, Maniaci said.
Hank explained the amendment allows the city the chance to be more flexible in how they look at the property. Additionally, he said the amendment gets the city to look at the properties that could qualify as a chronic nuisance premise more quickly.
“Basically, the more compliance-challenged the property owner is and the more difficulty they are having in complying, the quicker they will qualify for chronic nuisance,” Hank said.
Hank also highlighted the importance of the amendment in helping to improve neighborhoods in Madison.
When there is a property that is out of control and creating problems for the rest of the neighborhood, it can be difficult for the adjoining property owners, Hank said.
“You can get a spiral effect, where one bad building can take the others down around it,” Hank explained. “It makes it hard to rent to prospective tenants.”
Hank explained most reasonable tenants would not want to live next to a building that is out of control. One or two really bad buildings can have a negative effect on the whole neighborhood, he said.
The way the council revised the ordinance will help residents and owners of the properties next door will see change more quickly, Maniaci said. The amendment will be a real benefit to neighbors when there is an issue, she said.